Thursday, 23 January 2014

Righteous Fever



The day Austin stood before Julie and took his wedding vow was the happiest day of his life. He promised, "To take her, forsaking all others, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death they do part." It was a vow he was never going to break, not even in the face of The Fever.

It all began in the sweltering slums of San Paulo, Brazil. The first victim was a hunter recently back from a trip through the heart of the rain forest. Within days of returning he broke out in a high fever. A few days after that he went to see a doctor and described a raging thirst which never seemed to abate, a burning fever and pains in every bone in his body. The doctor could do little more than take blood and send the man home.

The hunter arrived back to the doctor’s office far quicker than his test results. The man was carried into the surgery on a makeshift stretcher, convulsing. His temperature was sky high and his face was an explosion of oozing blisters. The puss was incredibly sticky and continued to weep without clotting. The doctor transferred him to hospital on the spot. Unfortunately the team treating him didn't realise what they were dealing with and failed to place him in quarantine.

The hunter's condition worsened, blisters spread into the mouth - covering the gums and the tongue. The doctors were excited and frightened simultaneously because they were dealing with the unknown. They tried to control the hunter’s temperature and swab away the puss that was ever-coming. Try as they might they could not keep up with the worsening condition, it was incredibly aggressive. When the blisters appeared in the man's trachea his lungs began to fill with puss until his breaths became gurgles. Before dawn the hunter drowned in his own body.

A week went by before the hunter's wife presented herself with the beginning of a fever. The rest of the family were rounded up and they too showed signs of the strange new illness. Over the next few days every person who had come into contact with the hunter was either dying or dead. The virus, now unofficially known as "BFV" or "Brazilian Fever Virus," seemed to jump from person to person on contact.

All quarantine measures recommended by the World Health Organisation were now being followed, but the virus found a way around them. The disease mutated and began surviving off the host. Nobody knew that at the time, not until the number of cases of Brazilian Fever began to sore. An epidemic was turning into a disaster. As the doctors discovered more about the virus they found it was infectious for seven days before any symptoms appeared and ended up killing over eighty percent of all infected patients. Everyone agreed, BFV posed a real threat to the future of the human race.

***
The United Nations enacted Pandora Protocol. Every nation across the globe declared martial law. Containment rings were thrown around San Paulo. Nobody was allowed enter or leave. Across the globe international travel was banned, planes had to return to their place of origin without touching down. Many ran out of fuel and crashed. Ships returned to their last port of call or made themselves islands without a home.

The focus of the world turned on a tiny hospital in the poorest part of the world, and all held their breath.

Inside the infected zone - riots, looting and civil unrest went unchecked. Air drops of food, water and medication were the only assistance from the outside world. When the hundreds of thousands of healthy people within the containment ring realised they'd been given a death sentence, the trouble really started. Huge crowds gathered at the barriers and the pleading masses were shot down by the battalions manning the barricades. Bodies piled up and remained where they were till a plague of flies feasted on the rotting flesh. Nobody came to help.

The ripples of infection became waves as the death toll rapidly spiked. Despite the precautions in the hospital the fever began to spread among staff and patients. Bodies were being incinerated until the numbers grew too large. Pits were dug and the mass burnings began. Bodies transported by dumper truck, not hearse. Three weeks passed before the first case appeared on the far side of the containment wall. One case was all it took to bring the leaders of the world together in unity. One case might spell the end for humanity.

By week eight of infection, the death toll stood at 9,756 with a further 25,000 believed to be sick or dying. World leaders commanded the entire of humanity to remain indoors. Containment had failed, all they could do now was try and kill the infected before they had a chance to spread the Fever any further. The world paused, commerce faltered as the days ticked by. Week nine brought what everyone feared most. The fever jumped an ocean and two cases were confirmed in mainland Europe. The following day the first appeared in Florida. The beginning of the end was in sight.

Governments publicly cried for calm, but the sick began to vanish from the face of the earth. Rumours of eradication spiralled out of control as whole families, whole communities, disappeared. In the face of all man's efforts, BFV advanced undaunted.

Week thirty two of infection found every country on the face of the planet battling The Fever. The fabric of modern society lay in tatters as 6 billion people took matters into their own hands.

It was on week thirty three, that a group of twelve men, women, and children, walked from the wasteland of San Paulo. They were immune and word began to spread. They had survived in a church during the worst of the violence and insisted that God had saved them. Evangelists across the world declared a miracle, claiming, "A righteous man will walk through this plague without fear as long as his soul was pure and repentant." An American preacher offered absolution's over the phone, a mere $12.99 per minute. Even in its darkest hour you can depend on humanity to sink even lower.

Around this time, in Dublin, Ireland, Austin and Julie were holed up in their apartment watching the disaster unfold live on the internet. Their spare room looked like a supermarket, stacked with all the tinned food and water they had managed to lay their hands on. Austin, originally from Kerry, wanted to move back there when the outbreak had started but Julie said it would blow over. Now he wished he'd acted earlier. He'd not really believed the Fever would ever get to his little island, but it had. He had waited for the government to save them, a pipe dream if there ever was one. Austin knew if he and Julie were going to survive, it was down to him.

The only broadcast now running on TV demanded that everyone stay indoors. Lock yourself in and wait for help to arrive. Sod that for a game of solders he thought as he packed all he could into his Jeep. In the dead of night, with a shotgun laid across his lap, they put a burning Dublin city in their rear view mirror.


***


The city was a howling nightmare of sirens, screams, gunshots and explosions. A gang of rioters dived out of the way as Austin drove directly at them. Beside him, Julie screamed as one bounced off the side of the jeep.


"I want to go home, Austin," she sobbed as he raced up through the gears.


"We can't go home now, it’s too late," he said and reached across to stroke her hair. The shotgun bounced on his lap, the safety catch off, as the car ploughed through the debris strewn streets.


"I don't care, I just want to go home. I want to go home NOW!" she said, starting to shout. She pulled away from him and began to open her door.


"Julie, this is for the best," Austin said taking hold of her arm to stop her doing anything stupid while he kept the other on the steering wheel.


"I want my family," she sobbed, her hand still resting on the door handle.


"We can't go north, you know that. The Fever is in the north already, we got to get as far away as we can. You trust me, don't you?"


She sniffed, "I trust you," and she took her hand off the door handle.


Austin watched from the corner of his eye as a group of people danced wildly around a blazing supermarket. The world was going mad. He pushed the accelerator a little harder, wanting, needing, to be out of this city. By the time dawn came they were rolling across back roads bordered by high green hedgerows. On the radio, presenters continued to hold out the accepted line of 'stay home, talk to no one'.


Julie tried to phone her parents but couldn't get through. In the end she tried Skyping them and by some miracle a fuzzy image of her mother appeared on screen. At the sight of her, Julie burst into tears.


"Mom, Mom can you hear me?" she balled.

           
"I can sweetheart, are you all right?"


"We're fine, Mom. We're coming to get you, tomorrow or the day after." Julie said


"Don't Julie, the TV said we should stay home." On screen, Julies Mom worried at the corner of her cardigan before she said, "I think your father is sick. I haven't been able to wake him all day."


"Oh God!" said Julie, burying her head in her hands. Austin turned the laptop toward him and asked, "Mrs Ryan, how are you coping?"


"I'll be fine, Austin. I phoned the emergency number a while ago and they said help is on the way. You must promise to keep Julie away from here. Keep her safe."


"I will Mrs Ryan, I'll take..." just then the doorbell in Julie’s parents’ house rung.


"It must be the doctor," said Mrs Ryan jumping to her feet leaving the Skype connection running.



Austin could hear voices in the corridor, Mrs Ryan telling someone where her husband was and about his symptoms, the other voice was muffled like they were behind glass. The voices faded, as if they had gone up stairs. A couple of minutes later, there were three short blasts of automatic gunfire, then silence. Austin heard footsteps coming down the stairs. In of the corner of the screen he could just see a figure in black chemical suit sloshing liquid from a drum he was carrying. Slung across his back was an evil looking gun, stubby but deadly. The back of another person appeared close to the computer. He was also throwing liquid on the furniture and the curtains. He pulled an oven lighter from a pouch in his suit. It was strange seeing a harmless kitchen implement being used for such a grizzly purpose. The man ignited the curtains before turning to leave. He noticed the computer screen and calmly walked over until his mask filled the picture. With dead eyes the man closed the cover and the picture went black. The car was filled with screaming as Julie rocked forward and back in her seat.



Austin crushed three sleeping tablets into a bottle of water and made Julie drink it. She was hysterical and he couldn't think of anything else to do for her. What good were words when you just heard your parents being murdered? It didn't take long for her cries of grief to subside as she slipped into heavily drugged sleep. What else could he do but push south for safety?



***


"It's time to wake up baby," he said as he shook her. The Jeep was running but it had been pulled into the side of the road. Austin was already dressed in a green coat. It once had a fur trim but Austin had cut it off to make it more military looking. He helped dress Julie in a matching outfit before pulling a double layer of plastic gloves on her hands.


"What's going on?" she asked groggily.


"There are people on the road ahead, I don't know who they are but it’s better if they think we are solders. They will be less likely to try and mess with us." Julie was very groggy from the sleeping tablet and put up no resistance as Austin slipped a gas mask over her face and pulled her hood over her head. He settled back behind the wheel of the Jeep and checked the safety was still off on the gun before he moved.


On the road ahead a car was turned on its side, its nose facing down into the ditch. There were two people on the ground beside it. Austin pulled the Jeep to a stop fifty yards from them and got out, placing the shotgun to his shoulder.


"Clear the road!" he yelled, his words sounded extra loud as they bounced back at him from the inside of his gas mask.



"Thank God you're here, we need help," said the man as he struggled to lift the woman into his arms.


"Stay back," said Austin levelling the gun in at the man.


"She needs to get to hospital," said the man taking more steps forward. The woman in his arms was drenched in sweat and the first signs of weeping sores were visible around her eyes.


"We can’t help you, JUST STAY BACK" said Austin slipping his finger inside the trigger guard.


"I don't care, you’re going to help us," said the man and rushed forward with the dying woman in his arms. Austin didn't know he'd pulled the trigger until the man was thrown backward, landing hard on the ground. The woman landed on top of him and Austin could see blood staining the man’s shoulder where the blast had caught him. Austin looked down at the smoking gun in his shaking hands and couldn't believe he had just shot someone.


"I'm sorry," he called to the man and raced back to the Jeep. There was just enough room for them to scrape by the crashed car now that the couple were out of the road. Austin shot by the bleeding man and felt sick to his stomach. He'd as good as killed that man, he was a murder now. Nothing would ever be the same again.



***




"Did you kill him?" Julie asked, her voice still half-drunk with sleep.



“No, but if I let him stop us we were going to die. She had the Fever.”


"You're like the men that killed my Mother," she said, her voice flat and distant.


"I'm not like them and I didn't kill him, I just nicked him," he lied, not believing the words himself.


“Promise me that you won’t hurt anyone else otherwise we're no better than them,” she said.


“Ok I promise, I won’t hurt anyone else,” Austin said, it was an easy promise to make. He did not want to hurt anyone either. Austin slowed the jeep, keeping a steady pace. They avoided checkpoints by sticking to country lanes. They passed a few but they had long ago been abandoned. The miles continued to pass under the wheels, always south, toward safety.


Night came in on them fast and the petrol needle was resting on empty. If they didn't find fuel soon they'd never reach Kerry.

               

“We need to get some petrol,” he said as the warning light appeared on the dashboard.

“There hasn't been a petrol station for miles,” she said, and even the ones that they had passed looked deserted.


“I know, but we have to try,” Austin said, turning the Jeep into gate. The lane lead to a farm house sitting on top of a gentle hill. He began blowing the horn as he neared the house. Julie looked shocked, after all the effort they had made to stay hidden he was now making sure everyone heard them coming.

"What are you doing?" she asked, bewildered and dismayed.


“It’s like this, in that house could be a farmer. Farmers have guns. If he thinks we are trying to sneak up on him he's more likely to shoot first then ask questions later.” Austin said as he parked the Jeep away from the house.


“Wait here, keep the door locked while I'm gone,” Austin said sliding the shotgun under the sleeping bag which covered their supplies.


“Hello? Hello?” he called as he walked towards the house with his hands held high. There was movement behind kitchen window. Austin decided he was going to have to take a chance. He took off his mask. He waved and smiled toward the window.




“Hello in there, we’re from the red-cross. We're delivering supplies to people in the area. Do you need anything, tinned food, bottled water, medicine?” Austin continued to smile but moved no closer to the house. He tried to imagine what the people inside would want to hear. A woman’s face appeared at the window. She was pale and frightened.


“Show me your identification,” she shouted. Austin flipped open his wallet which had his Bank ID in the clear pocket. He held it up but stayed back so the woman wouldn't be able to read it.


“Look, if you’re ok for everything we better get moving. It will be dark soon,” said Austin with a smile, he turned to go.


“Wait,” called the woman who vanished from the window. The back door opened and middle-aged woman appeared. She wore an apron with flour on it. In her hand she carried a nasty looking slash hook which looked uncomfortable in her dough covered hands.


Austin raised his hands with his palm facing the woman. “Wait where you are please, madam. There are some questions I'm supposed to ask before we can give you any assistance."

The woman paused and thought for a second then said, "Go on."

"Are you, or any of your family sick?”


“No.”


“Has anyone been to the farm in the last two weeks?”


“No.”


“How many are in your family?”


“Four. Myself, my husband and two boys.”


“Has everyone remained inside the building since the emergency began?”


“Yes...no,” said the woman “my husband and eldest son went to get some help four days ago and have not come back yet.” Austin noticed the woman lower the slash hook a little. She so wanted to believe that he was here to help. He had to reassure her.




“I'm sure they are fine, missus. Lots of people have been coming into towns from the country. They are being housed in shelters until we can reunite everyone. Your son and husband are more than likely waiting in one of them for you. What was his name?” Austin asked taking out his mobile phone.


“Sean Kelly,” the woman said, as Austin dialled a number.


“And your son?”


“Paul Kelly.” The connection beeped in his ear. “Hello, this is unit 61 checking in, we are in south Tipperary, outside Latan, on the Kelly Farm. We have two missing civilians, Sean Kelly, adult male and Paul Kelly, age…” Austin looked at the woman.


“He’s fourteen,” she said the hope dripping from her words.


“Fourteen.” Austin said then grew quiet. He nodded said Hum a few times and then pretended to wait. He covered the mouthpiece with his hand and told the lady, “They're checking the computer.” Austin gave it a little over a minute before saying “I am still here,” followed by another pause. “That's great, we should be back at base in an hour. Ok, thanks.”




Austin closed the phone, cutting off his message service in mid-sentence. “Your husband and son are fine, they are in the red-cross camp in Tipperary town.”


The woman was delighted and she lowered the slash hook altogether.


“We'll leave you an emergency hamper, it has some medication and tinned provisions that will get you through the next few days. It is just in the back of the jeep.” Austin said as he walked towards the Jeep motioning for Julie to open up. The woman laid the slash hook on the ground and followed Austin. Austin opened the back door, pulled out the shotgun and levelled it at the woman. As the black double barrels tracked her middle the frightened look returned to her face.


“Do what I say and everything will be fine. I don’t want to hurt you but believe me, I will. Move back to the house,” he said.


The woman turned and walked away holding her hands to her face, the first few tears beginning to well in her eyes. Austin heard the door of the Jeep open and Julie came running after him.


               
“What are you doing? You promised not to hurt anyone else,” she accused. Austin could see the woman take in what Julie just said, those few words were worth all the threats he could make. The woman faltered slightly as she neared the slash hook.

“Don’t even think about it,” warned Austin.


Inside the kitchen stood a young boy near the window, he'd watched the whole episode unfold. He looked as frightened as his mother. He ran to her wrapping his arms around her waist.


Austin pointed to a chair with the gun and said “Sit.”


The old farm house was as solid as a fort, the walls must be three feet thick. The kitchen was an arsenal of sharp knives and makeshift bludgeons. There was a small door which seemed to be a press or a cellar. Austin opened it and found it windowless with nothing more dangerous than a tin of baked beans. This would have to do. He moved back from the door and pointed inside with the barrel of the gun.


“Both of you in here, Please.” Just because you were holding someone at gunpoint was no reason to be rude. The woman hurried into the pantry pushing the crying boy ahead of her.


“Hand over your phone,” Austin said, holding out his hand.


“I don’t have one,” said the woman a little too quickly. Austin had a feeling she was lying.


“Hand it over!” he yelled and shouldered the gun. The woman yanked the phone out of the pocket of her apron and threw it at him, cowering in the corner and shielding the boy.  Austin about to shut them in when he paused for a second, then asked, “Has he got a phone?” 


For an instant, the tables were turned, the woman looked furious as she barked, “No! of course not.”


“Fair enough, sorry,” apologised Austin. He closed over the door and wedged one of the kitchen chairs under the Bakelite handle. The chair jammed on the uneven kitchen floor securing the pair inside. Julie had watched the whole thing silently but now that they were alone she gave him a filthy look.


“What?” he asked. “Did you think she was just going to let us help ourselves. Wake up for God sake, Julie. The world is different now. If we are going to survive we have to change with it.”


“You promised not to hurt anyone only a few hours ago.”


“And I haven’t,” he said, storming past her to search the out houses for petrol.



***



The farm proved to be an Aladdin’s cave of useful stuff. They had found gallons of liquid that smelled like petrol and the Jeep ran just fine on it. Austin also found some tools that would come in useful and plastic sheeting, a few large milking buckets. He loaded it all in the jeep. Then he found a whole shed full of stored vegetables.


“Jackpot,” said Austin. "That is dinner sorted for a while,” he said opening sacks of potatoes, turnips, onions and carrots. He filled the Jeep until it was groaning under the weight it carried. The night was pitch black by the time they were done.


“We better stay the night or our lights might attract attention. We'll get going at dawn," he said. They stripped off their plastic gloves and washed as best they could using an outside tap before covering up again with new gloves. Before he released the woman and her boy, Austin put all the kitchen knives into a plastic bag and hid them in a shed outside. To make Julie happy, Austin had taken the shells out of the gun. When everything was ready he pulled the chair away from the pantry door. A fire was burning in the hearth and it threw a warming glow into the dark little press.


“You can come out now,” said Austin standing back. Julie was warming up spaghetti hoops in a pan over the fire.


“What do you want with us,” asked the woman, not coming out of the pantry.


“Nothing, and that is the truth,” said Austin. “We needed some petrol and didn't think you'd just give it to us. We took some potatoes as well, I hope you don’t mind.”


The woman didn't move. Julie came forward and said, “We are not bad people, we're just like you, doing what we have too. You must be hungry, how about some spaghetti hoops,” she said to the boy with a smile.




Over plates of food, Julie and Austin told the woman what they had seen on the streets and what had happened to Julie’s parents in cork. The woman didn't believe everything they said. She was convinced the government wouldn't do such things. The questions of what had happened to her husband and son soon bubbled up again. This time Austin could give her no answer. Silence descended on the group as the fire crackled gaily in the corner.

               
“My mother had a cure for fever. Do you want to know what it was,” the farmer’s wife asked.


“Sure,” said Julie with a smile.


“Get an old pair of socks. Soak them in equal parts apple cider vinegar and ice cold spring water. Wring them out until they are damp then put them on the person’s feet. You need to change them before they dry out. Keep doing this until they feel better.”


“That could come in handy I'll remember that,” said Julie with just the hint of a smile.


“It has to be well-water not tap-water,” said the woman, letting the familiar sharing of knowledge ease this strange situation but then she started to look embarrassed. “You never know, there might be something in it.”


Austin was not so sure that damp socks were going to help but he kept his mouth shut.



***

In the morning Austin returned the woman’s phone and apologised again for scaring her and her son.


“Where are you heading?” the woman asked.


“Kerry. Austin is from Ballinskelligs,” said Julie


“Into the west,” said the woman, it was a line from a movie.


“As far west as we can get,” agreed Austin. He made Julie change their gloves before getting into the Jeep. The final leg of their journey had begun.




***




A few hours later they caught their first glimpse of the wild Atlantic Ocean. They followed the coast south. Julie was taken by surprise when Austin turned off the road a few miles short of Ballinskelligs. He drove along a sand humped road which ended in a little car park. Off to the left was a shed perched high above the beach.


“Why are we stopping here, I thought we were going to your father’s house?”


Austin stopped the engine. It was time to come clean with the final part of his plan.


“I've been thinking hard about this, Julie. Ireland could have survived if they kept the virus out. But they didn’t. Now the fever is here it will rip through the place and nobody will stop it. Nowhere is safe anymore.”


“So what was the point in coming all the way down here?” she asked.


Austin pointed out the windscreen at the jagged islands sitting off the coast, “There, it’s our only hope.”


“You've got to be joking,” she said.


“No. I'm serious,” Austin said. “Skellig Michael has only one landing point, It is easily defended, there are old monks huts already built and it is surrounded by fish. Three months, six tops and we will be able to come back.”


“How the hell are we going to get all the way out there?”


“There is a boat in that shed.  Everything is ready to go, between the two of us we can manage it.”


“You must be mad,” she said and after a minute she added, “I must be mad too.”








They pried open the boathouse and inside they found an inshore lifeboat, fuelled up and ready to go. The boat could take six men so there was plenty of room for all their equipment. When Austin backed the boat into the water, Julie was sitting at the helm. The trailer vanished under the waves and the boat floated clear. Austin gave Julie the thumbs up and she pressed the starter button. The outboard motor roared into life before settling to a throbbing idle. Austin unclipped the boat from the trailer before pulling himself aboard. The boat bobbed, twisting in the wind. A breaking wave caught them side-on, nearly capsizing them. Austin engaged the engine and eased out the throttle. The boat leapt forward, easily cutting through the waves.

Julie glowed with nervous excitement as the boat bumped over the little waves sending spray high into the wind. The island grew in size, rising out of the depths like a huge, grey, shark tooth. In twenty minutes they were under the towering cliffs. Austin found the pebble beach in the lee of the island and drove the boat on it at a good head of speed. The boat came to a juddering halt as it hit the rocks but nothing seemed to shatter.


For the rest of the day they climbed the steep steps, hauling supplies to the little stone huts monks had used for shelter hundreds of years ago. Austin did most of the work, Julie tried but it was hard going. She got more fatigued with each trip and in the end Austin insisted she stay and set up camp while he returned for the rest of their supplies alone.

When the boat was empty, Austin removed the heavy engine and hid it in a crevice high above the wave-line. The boat, now empty, was easy to haul out of the water and to the highest point on the beach. He tied it off with some of the rope to make sure it wasn't washed away by the rise and fall of the tide. He mounted the steps and began his last climb to the top of the mountain. He wondered to himself if he would ever make the trip back to the mainland, and if he did, what would he find when he got there?

That evening, Austin got a tent up in the lee of a rocky outcrop. They didn't have the energy to start a meal so they ate a few bars of chocolate and fell into an exhausted sleep. Even though the weather was fair, the wind whipped the tent constantly, waking Austin several times during the night.

The next day, Austin made the big piece of plastic into a rain collector to provide them with a supply of fresh water. The first few days passed quickly on the island, although far from comfortable, it provided them with their first feeling of security for a long time. Julie cooked meals on a small camp stove but the gas soon ran out and as there was nothing to burn, most things were eaten raw. Austin managed to catch some fish but not as many as he would have liked. Twice, boats came close to the island but none tried to land.

The night the storm hit started like any other, but the wind started to really pick up in the afternoon. By the time the light was fading, their tent ripped then flew away toward the mainland. They spent that night huddled in one of the monk’s stone huts. The next morning Austin woke early and went to check the damage. When he got back to the hut, Julie was still sleeping.

"It's not that bad," he said but she didn't stir.

“Julie,” he said, giving her a little shake. She turned toward him and her hair was wet with sweat and her face flushed bright red. She was hot to touch.

“Water,” she croaked. Austin's hands shook as he opened the water container and held it to her lips. She emptied the bottle without stopping to take a breath. It can’t be the fever Austin assured himself, he had taken every precaution. No matter what he told himself, there was no denying what his eyes were seeing. He rested Julies head on his lap and stroked her hair. She soon fell into an abnormally deep sleep and heat radiated off her as if she were on fire. The only time he moved that whole day was to get more water for Julie, not that there was enough water on the island to quench her thirst.

First light the following day shone on the first blisters appearing on Julies perfect skin and Austin knew that all hope was gone. She woke and looked in his eyes, tears began to mingle with sweat covering her skin.

"It hurts," she said and began to cry. Austin held her close to him and cried along with her. He rocked her like a baby until she slept once more. How could he watch her go through all of this if there was no hope of surviving. How could he do it to her? He pushed himself upright and took the shotgun in his hand and squinted through the tears as he held the sight an inch from the love of his life. Nothing could make him pull the trigger. When she needed him most, he failed her.



Another storm hit the island as Julie began to struggle to breath. The wind howled as she got worse and finally trashed in convulsion. Her body arched then collapsed in on itself. The thing that made her Julie vanished from her body. Austin shook her, screamed at her to wake one last time. Insane with despair he lifted her still warm body into his arms and ran into the maelstrom. He howled at the heavens as the wind whipped her name from his lips. Lightening cracked and stabbed at the foaming waves hundreds of feet below.


He stood on the edge of the cliff and knew no tombstone could do justice to the love of his life. No pitiful grave would embrace her delicate skin. Only the endless expanse of the Atlantic could ever contain the love he felt for her. Austin kissed her lips one last time and said “Time to go, my love.”


He stepped into the void and they plunged down, down down. No matter what, they would be together - forever.

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